Community is the solution to predatory and extractive marketing which is rapidly evaporating as people wake up to the fact that billionaires in Silicon Valley are playing God with their social interactions and fracturing the fabrics of their real life communities. Building community, providing tremendous value and ensuring that your humans are supported in their collective missions is the evolution of “marketing”.

To be clear— what we’re talking about stretches far beyond the traditional advertising practices of the Mad Men era and the exploitative digital marketing techniques of the last decade or more. What we’re talking about now is allowing for our humanity to shine through in our interactions with the communities we build and participate in that collectively move missions forward. It’s not marketing, its authentic human connection. And we’re all starving for it in our online interactions.

I’ve participated in the advertising and marketing industries in some form or another for almost 25 years. Mostly as a freelance photographer, copywriter and web builder. I’ve watched the evolution and disintegration of this industry and I officially left this work about 6 years ago. I stumbled into community building and management for blockchain ecosystems in 2017 and now find myself in possession of a deep understanding of the beauty and the chaos that virtual community building can create. I am a community builder in one of the most unpredictable and potentially toxic environments imaginable but have managed to find a niche in the public goods sector of this insane crypto industry that is mission driven and filled with amazing humans trying to make the world better.

Image by cstreet | From The Good Bones project created in La Junta, CO in 2021.

I also randomly returned to school in 2021 to cultivate a deep spiritual practice by majoring in Yoga Studies with a minor in Religion. My school specializes in a contemplative pedagogy and mindfulness practices based on ancient wisdom traditions, like Tibetan Buddhism and Sufism, are the foundations our academics. Everyday I straddle two worlds— community building in web3 as a founding member of an impactDAO and the study and practice of wisdom traditions, specifically Tantric Yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. The merging of my worlds has led me to explore a concept I call

Can we build resilient communities around a collective mission that are healthy, sustainable and driven to move the needle on some of the most pressing issues we face? Can compassion be baked into the technology of our future by creating contemplative technological communities? Can the practices learned through community building for technical organizations be applied to non-technological structures so they too can build resilient communities and remove themselves from the toxic clutches of extractive marketing?

I believe we can do all of the above— and more. I believe that in building contemplative virtual communities, we can strengthen the human layers of our IRL structures as well. I believe we can foster strong, authentic human interactions through healthy virtual containers that transcend the means of connection and allow us to create deep relationships that carry into real life. I believe our IRL communities can strengthen within virtual containers and elevate our human relationships within and outside of these community containers.

I believe the evolution of advertising is the complete collapse of the industry itself as we all shift towards simply building containers that allow for our humanity to grow and connect. An occasional flyer for a sale or promo for a concert is a completely logical use of advertising and that’s the extent of it. Have a message you want to convey so people can use your product and you can make money? Here’s a simple solution— write valuable content to educate people about why your solution matters and help them. Provide tools for your customers to connect with one another and be so damn amazing that people want to share your goodness with their friends. That’s it. Simple. Basic. Slow. Beautiful.

Notice something different in that paragraph? We’re not talking about engagement metrics, viral TikToks or influencer marketing. We’re not talking about how to leverage people’s attention and clicks to boost shareholder’s bank accounts. We’re not talking about throwing cash at surveillance capitalism to squeeze every last dime out of consumers and sell more widgets.

That ship has sailed and if we, as a collective, do not open our damn eyes to the reality that WE are the product and that corporations will continue to suck every last resource out of our lives until we are destitute on the streets because the shareholder’s well-being is placed above the value of our own lives then we will succumb to the worst late stage capitalism has to offer. If we’re being honest here— we already are a hair’s breath away from the worst possible outcomes of unfettered capitalism.

The solution? Slow growth. Companies and organizations who value the human layer of their structures and place the well being of their employees and customers above their bottom lines. Plenty of examples exist in our current economic structures of companies who do just that— place humanity above the shareholders and P&L statements. Instead of exiting to IPO and shareholders, exit to community. Build your community to support your mission and let them participate in the governance and direction your company or organization chooses to travel. Create a beautiful dance with your organization and your community and watch what unfolds.

Image by cstreet | From The Good Bones project created in La Junta, CO in 2021.

I’m giving you permission to completely re-think how you convey your message to your customers and clients. Gut your marketing plans, destroy your advertising roadmaps and shift all of those resources towards building your community. Create a powerful vehicle to move your mission forward— we all need the beauty you have to offer the world.